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  • Writer's pictureAkhil Kumar

Networking With Playstation — From The Founder’s Pages #1

When I began working on the Playstation Network (PSN, as it is popularly known as these days), it didn’t have all the vibrant features that it enjoys today. Actually, before we even venture forth into the idea of features, let’s talk about the resources available to us back then to promote a unique product like the PSN. The biggest challenge back then was to popularize the very idea of a network. It wasn’t something players could visualize easily, because they didn’t have abundant inspirations to compare to. If I had said that we were building a network, then players needed to understand exactly what I was trying to say.

But let’s add another challenge to the one I just mentioned.

I had to spread the word of a network in Asia. Seventeen years ago, advancements in internet and social media weren’t widespread in several parts of the continent. You didn’t have all the facilities and features that countries in the western hemisphere enjoyed. Mobile phones and 3G networks weren’t available as easily as they are now. In fact, they were almost a rarity, with only those who were lucky enough to gain access to them able to enjoy their features.

This meant that I had to promote the idea of a network without actually having all the benefits of a network.

Talk about a real challenge, eh?

The only options that we had was to leverage offline events and products to spread word of the network. We needed to educate gamers about the Playstation Network by actually displaying what it could do in real life. That meant getting players to reach a point where they could enjoy a trial of the final product.

Think about that for a moment. Today, if you need to check out an online service or a feature, you just have to follow a link or access a web portal and you are practically done. Everything is available from the comfort of your own home.

However, when I had to work on the Playstation Network, I had to get people to actually leave that comfort zone, travel a distance, and try out a product that I hoped that they would enjoy.

It was nerve wracking. But it was my first exposure to the challenges of launching a product, communicating about it effectively to the masses, and facing the pressures of every increasing number of challenges.

But I truly believed in the idea of the network. I knew that it was something that people would be able to enjoy. I have always been fascinated with not just game development, but with its social aspect as well.

Back then, my team had a vision. We understood that games were restricted to a very local environment, typically a room within a home or a certain living space. We wanted that environment to expand. In fact, we wanted it to become a global environment.

That was easier said than done. I used to think about how people would play games with their friends or even strangers. Typically, it involved visiting the local arcade or another space dedicated to providing a public gaming service. I always wondered what it would be like to actually enable such a space through virtual connections. That meant using the internet to connect with other players without actually having to travel anywhere.

It was a fascinating idea and I wanted to be part of its development. That simply idea of connectivity allowed me to build a vision for the Playstation network. It was to enable the gaming experience to as many people as possible, regardless of where they were in the world.

A lot of people have asked me why I am fascinated with the social aspect of games. The simple reason is that I believe that gaming should ideally have that social feature. You may not activate that feature, but it should be should you need it. Let’s talk about the world a century ago, back games were restricted to using actual objects, tools, and substances. Think about games like chess or mahjong. They were all social encounters. Players would get together to experience the game. Sure, some of them could be played solitarily, but the social aspect was always there as an option.

That is what I wanted for the Playstation Network.

Today, not only can you connect with other players if you want to, but you can even access the PSN (Playstation Network) store to purchase any product directly without having to travel to a physical store.

The Playstation Network has evolved into something massive today. But it did have humble origins.

Perhaps this is why I am fascinated with not just developing a game with a robust network, but expanding it so that it is accessible to as many people around the world as possible. Sure, it’s a challenge. But so was Playstation Network a challenge.

Apollumia is my personal PSN project, but one that I strongly believe in.

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